Holy Week – or Passion Week – is a very emotional week for my wife and I, for we always try to read the Scripture corresponding to the day that Christ was in that week. Thus we can gain a sense of how things played out at a chronological level. Chronological Bible reading is the most fruitful way to read Scripture. This week, as I was reading the words of Mark 15 which read:
“Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads, and saying, ‘Ha! The one who would destroy the temple and rebuilt it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross!’ In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others, but he cannot save himsel!’ Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.” Mark 15:29–32.
Here we see Jesus in the very midst of the crucifixion. While Jesus is hanging from the cross, the mentality and mindset of the Pharisees, those in the crowd, and even one of the criminals is simply corrupted. The fact is, far too often do we find ourselves in the mindset of one of these three parties. The audience insulted Him, the Pharisees mocked Him, and one of those crucified with Him taunted Him. Why does Mark make a point to tell us these things? These words are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), so they carry some significance for us!
The mindset we may find ourselves in is far more subtle. It is a mindset of expectation. Just as these Jews were expecting a Messiah that would come in political and military power, they could not believe in a Messiah that came any other way. Today, we expect someone to save us from what we want to be saved from while ignoring what we need to be saved from. We want a Savior that will bring health, wealth, and prosperity, but will not demand obedience. Our Savior came in humble obedience, to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6–8), not so we may expect things from him, but that we may receive life from him. It is this mindset that we should adopt among ourselves (Philippians 2:5), not that of the audience around Jesus, the Pharisees, or the criminal.
The expectations, though all related, can be viewed in three distinct categories that we may find ourselves in.
Jesus was viewed as a liar. The audience, those who passed by, were all “yelling insults” at the Savior in the midst of his crucifixion. Why would they do this? Simply because he was not their savior. They viewed him as a mere man, a lunatic of sorts. The Greek of this word for “insult” literally means “to ruin a reputation.” The audience was not content with the mere crucifixion of a man who made such astounding claims to the supernatural. Things needed to be taken further to not only physical harm but emotional ridicule and the destruction of his reputation.
By missing the point of the cross or creating a Jesus that serves us, we tend to implicitly state that Jesus was a liar. They created a liar by creating a Jesus according to their expectations, that would perform according to their command. By no means unique to modern society is that cultures tend to create a Jesus according to their culture and societal standards, in which Jesus is created to serve us. When this happens, a pseudo-Jesus take the place of the true Jesus. The expectations of this pseudo-Jesus make the real Jesus out to be a liar. Many of us adhere to the belief and expectation of this pseudo-Jesus over the true Jesus of the Bible.
Jesus was viewed as a rival. Pharisees are known for the knowledge, but not necessarily their hearts. Nobody knew more than them about Scripture. Nobody had memorized Scripture as they had. That is until Jesus entered the scene. His knowledge and wisdom were unmatched. His biblical interpretations were dumbfounding. No longer were the Pharisees the greatest of the greats in religious Israel. Jesus was no co-laborer, he was no colleague, he was only a rival.
As the Pharisees were so full of head knowledge and empty of love, they missed the entire purpose of the cross: love (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16, 4:9). As they viewed Jesus as a rival to compete with rather than a Savior to submit to, they created unrighteous expectations. Their expectations were reflective of their own hearts, that Jesus should put himself first, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself” (Mark 15:31). Little did they know that to love someone is to die for them (John 15:13).
Jesus is not a rival for us to compete with, but a Savior to submit to. Don’t miss this by expecting him to adhere to your standards of a Savior. Don’t mock a Savior that doesn’t live up to your expectations. Submit to a Savior that has met the expectations through love.
Jesus was viewed as unequal. Jesus was crucified among two criminals. One of them mocked, the other submitted. The mocker specifically “taunted” Jesus. This criminal has nothing more to lose, why not taunt a man that claims omnipotence?
By no means do I want to read anything into Scripture that is not already there, but I cannot help but wonder why the criminal taunts him? Is it that he feels that Jesus should be viewed as less than himself? This may be the criminals last opportunity toward a less-evil view in people’s eyes. This can only be accomplished by the comparison of those whom he is crucified with. If he can make the others out to look worse than himself, maybe his name will be viewed as “less evil” than theirs. Thus, the criminal taunts Jesus to prove His power, and as Jesus must humbly and obediently die (Philippians 2:6–8), He cannot prove His power as these people taunt Him to do. Is this not the very nature of taunting, attempting to get someone to prove what they claim? By not proving His power, the people believe that the mockers, taunters, and insulters have disproved Jesus.
We may taunt Jesus by expecting things from Him and placing Him under our control. We tend to forget that the greatest act that He could do was accomplished in this very moment, dying for our sins and three days later raising for our life! We may insult Him, mock Him, or taunt Him, but we can always have the heart of the other criminal, in which we realize our sins and can turn from them. It is here that I am reminded of John’s words, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).